Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Shouldn't Take Me So Literally

  • Astros fire manager Cecil Cooper:
Here's what I wrote on Friday in discussing managers that are (or should be) in trouble when mentioning the now former Astros manager Cecil Cooper:

Both he and GM Ed Wade are in trouble in Houston. Cooper doesn't get much respect in the media and apparently in the clubhouse; he's somehow kept a team with shaky pitching competitive. I don't think he's as bad a manager as he's portrayed. That's not going to save him from owner Drayton McLane's itchy trigger finger.
Cooper's gone.

Naturally I didn't mean, y'know, immediately.
There are only two reasons to fire a manager with so little time left in the season: 1) the club is collapsing and has no choice as the Brewers did last year when they replaced Ned Yost with Dale Sveum and recovered from their swoon to make the playoffs; and 2) they're going to do it as soon as the season ends anyway and the replacement for the rest of the season is going to be the permanent replacement and they're letting him have a look at the club for the duration.
Aside from those circumstances, why fire Cooper now? Would it have made that much of a difference if he'd finished the season?
The talk was so rampant that Cooper had lost the clubhouse that it obviously was an issue, but I don't know any manager----from Tony La Russa to Joe Torre to Billy Martin----who could've done much better than Cooper did with that roster, especially that pitching staff. It's not very fair that he was dismissed in this way.
That said, McLane has been ripped before because of not seeing "reality" or making capricious hirings and firings and been proven to be right. Last season, the Astros looked dead and were widely expected to clean house of some veterans; instead, they traded for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, were ridiculed endlessly----and crawled back into the race. They were in similar circumstances in 2005 when they looked to be dead at mid-summer and fought back to make it to the World Series.
Who the next manager of the Astros is going to be depends on what McLane does with GM Ed Wade. If Wade stays, I think Larry Bowa is a real possibility to take over the Astros; if not, it depends on who he brings in as GM. (Dan Duquette's name keeps popping into my head for some reason.)
That team can hit; if they brought in some pitching, they'd be pretty good. When examined objectively (and ignoring the criticisms of the organization), the situation in Houston isn't all that bad.
  • In other circumstances, this would be a terrible loss for the Red Sox:
If the difference between the division title and the Wild Card were that much of an problem, the Red Sox blowing a 6-0 lead to the lowly Royals would be met with rightful indignation. That the Yankees lost as well would only make it look worse; but the first round playoff matchup is more of a factor to the Yankees than it is to the Red Sox.
The last thing the Yankees want to see in the first round is the Angels. Mike Scioscia's team has harpooned the Yankees lofty hopes so many times that the Angels are a more of a recurring nightmare than a rival. Such is not the case for the Red Sox.*

*That said, much like the Yankees-Red Sox playoff matchups, eventually if the Red Sox run into the Angels enough times, one day they're going to lose.

Aside from that possibility, the Red Sox plaster the Angels all over the place with regularity and I don't think anyone's all that intimidated by the prospect of facing the Tigers or Twins; while the loss to the Royals was embarrassing, it's essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
  • Viewer Mail 9.22.2009:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman:

I agree that the Yankees' "plan" for Joba has gone horribly awry, and I also agree that it hasn't been all about what's best for Joba but also what's best for the Yankees. But I'm not getting the Cashman thing - about how he has to be "right." The only thing that will make him right is if the Yankees win the World Series.

You have to read between the lines when it comes to this type of assessment. If you examine everything that's happened since the last championship (in 2000!!!), and the way the game has changed with GMs becoming the equivalent of rock stars in a sports context and expanding their outreach to corporate speaking gigs, best-selling books and appellations of Einstein-level brilliance, it's easier to understand why Cashman has tried to place himself as the center of the Yankees universe.
Think about it: why would it matter to any executive if his bosses are telling him that he has $200+ million to spend on players? Why was he under such a self-imposed mandate to get the payroll down? What did he care? Was the money coming out of his pocket? No.
Because he no longer wanted to hear the caveat for the Yankees success, "well, look at all the money they spend" and not get any acknowledgment for the good things he's done as GM; and had to sit by while Billy Beane and Theo Epstein were referred to as "geniuses", Cashman jumped into the fray. He's using stats above all else; he tried certain innovations such as the hiring of a baseball outsider as the strength coach in Marty Miller because of Miller's glossy plans, charts and graphs that did little more than improve the players' abilities to injure their backs; he consolidated his power as the main voice of the club; he had a large hand in forcing out the one man who could've and would've pushed back at the organizational dictate on how to use the young pitchers----former manager Joe Torre.
Cashman wants to be known as the architect of this club.
And he is. For better or worse.
The Joba Rules/JOBA RUINATION comes from him.
The manager, Joe Girardi, is who Cashman wanted because he's disposable and would do anything for the opportunity including following the most ridiculous orders and acting like he's on board. (Why do you think he didn't want Lou Piniella or Don Mattingly to replace Torre? Because he wouldn't be able to fire them, nor would he be able to control them.)
The pitching decisions were made by Cashman and right now, A.J. Burnett is looking to be another in a long line of gaffes along the lines of Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay and Carl Pavano.
It's about him. It's not about the organization. It could be that he ends up being right, but in watching what they've done to Chamberlain; the way Burnett's been awful; and the questions heading into the playoffs, this has just as much chance of exploding in another first round knockout similar to the ones that eventually doomed Torre----but there's no one to blame. Cashman's the man now. Just like he wanted. It's his baby. We'll see how it evolves.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Milton Bradley:

Oh boy, Prince. Rumors circulating that there may be an Oliver Perez for Milton Bradley trade during the offseason. I'm sure the Mets could get Bradley to behave (that's a lie).

I have to say that if I'm the Mets and I can get out from under that $4 million difference between the two contracts and get Perez out of here, I'd seriously consider it.

Anonymous writes RE the Mets and Bobby Valentine:

Why would Bobby V want to return to the Mets? I sure haven't Fred Coupon/Wilpons vote of confidence in July 2002 & then firing Bobby V 3 months later. A manager, owner & GM most trust each other. Freddy Coupon stabbed Bobby V in the back. IMO the Mets would have to give Bobby V LOTS of perks & a gauranteed contract etc to return to this dysfunctional, sloppy team.

Well, anonymous (I dunno the point of hiding your identity, but whatever), any potential issue about the way that was handled wouldn't be a problem now. It was seven years ago and Valentine is on the record as saying that he's still friends with Fred. The main culprit in how that was handled was a nifty and Machiavellian end-around by GM Steve Phillips. It was understood throughout that year that if one of the GM/manager tandem went, then both would go. Phillips skillfully and somewhat admirably weaseled his way around the manager, got him fired and was allowed to hire Art Howe to replace him. Phillips was also fired early in 2003.
Valentine's reaction when told of his dismissal wasn't any anger toward the Wilpons; it was bewilderment at Phillips keeping his job. "And Steve stays?!?" was the widely circulated retort.
Fred's problem hasn't been that he's cheap. How can a club that spends the way the Mets do be considered cheap? It's that he's too nice. Fred doesn't want to be perceived as the bad guy and that's placed him into a position where giant messes have been made where there shouldn't have been. His son Jeff is a bit more ruthless and pragmatic, but he too has shown tendencies to hesitate from coldly and brutally doing what needs to be done for the greater good.
As I said before, Valentine and GM Omar Minaya have a great relationship. The money wouldn't be a problem. It's cheaper to hire a new manager to try and fix what's there now than it is to start over with a pricey move on Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Joel Piniero or John Lackey. Valentine would walk back to NY from Japan to get himself on the big stage again and make a load of money. Looking at the Mets foundation----Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Francisco Rodriguez----Valentine would think (accurately) that he'd be able to patch things together for a title run very quickly.
Past bitterness wouldn't be a factor. These things are easily forgotten and quickly forgiven.


fab923 said...

No question, no discussion just the Mets reversing their huge mistake by letting him go. If the Wilpons are afraid then help them by letting them know. Mail it in.


Fred & Jeff Wilpon
c/o Citifield
120 01 Roosevelt Ave.
Corona, NY 11368

Jeff said...

Let's put your predicting to the test. Try announcing something like: "Tony LaRussa will DEFINITELY sign another multi-year contract with the Cardinals after the 2009 season."


Julia said...

Cashman - what an interesting person. I agree with your assessment as to why Girardi is the manager. Cashman comes across as an insecure person who is not at all comfortable allowing anyone to "share the power" with him. I can't help but wonder - If George Steinbrenner was still in charge would we be onto "Joba 12.4" a la Cashman?